The Story of Rick Mears and the Mears Gang
Gordon Kirby’s brilliant biography of four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears, entitled “Rick Mears—Thanks”.
Mears announced his retirement from racing at the end of 1992, just after his 41st birthday. He was still at the height of his powers and chose exactly the right moment to retire, a rare thing in most sports and motor racing in particular. He went out a winner with a record of four Indy 500 victories, three CART Indy Car World Series championships, 29 individual race victories and 40 pole positions. He was the most successful Indy car driver of his era and was considered the king of the speedways.
For him, the faster the track, the better.
“Rick was an incredible talent,” Mario Andretti comments. “He was always given so much credit for being such an ace on ovals. I think that disturbed him to some degree because he was able to rise to the occasion on the road courses as well. He was a force to be reckoned with where ever he went. I think he was probably the most misread individual because he was always very kind, very laid-back. But I don’t think anybody’s fire burned any brighter or any stronger in his belly when he was in a race car.”
Mears is also recognized as one of the fairest, most ethical drivers in the history of the sport. Rick’s behavior on the track was impeccable, the standard by which all others were judged. “He was very polished,” Andretti adds. “He was probably one of the most correct drivers out there to race against. I always had the greatest respect for Rick Mears.”
Rick is pleased to enjoy a legacy for being brilliantly fast but eminently fair. “That means a lot to me,” he reflects. “I never really thought about it, except when somebody brings it up. But it means a lot to me, because then I feel whatever we’ve earned was earned in the right way. It’s not like cutting corners. I feel like we’ve earned it fair and square. I’ve always felt like that’s the way it should be done. I guess it’s the way we were brought up.
“That’s what racing was all about to us as kids growing up. It was figuring out how to get by the next guy, but doing it the way it ought to be done. We always wanted to shove back a little if anybody shoved at us. But you don’t want to initiate it. If someone does it to you, there’s a payback when the time comes, if it’s necessary. You don’t feel bad about it then, but that’s the only circumstances when you’ll lean on anybody. You never initiate it.”
Thus reads the gospel of one of automobile racing’s greatest, smoothest, most sportsmanlike drivers. He may also be racing’s most unadorned genius, a humble, entirely unpretentious man whose deft touch at the wheel is equaled by his quiet eloquence in revealing and explaining his career and the sport that made him famous.
The journey through Rick’s biography will help you understand how Rick’s honesty, open-ness and remarkable lack of ego made him the most perfect teammate and sportsman motor racing has ever seen. In today’s often discolored world of sport Rick Mears’s way of racing, working and living is a fine lesson for all of us.